A consortium of billionaire Sunil Mittal’s Bharti Global Ltd and the British government has won an auction to acquire satellite operator OneWeb that collapsed after its biggest investor SoftBank Group Corp pulled funding.
The two consortium partners have committed to provide $1 billion to acquire OneWeb and fund the full restart of its operations, according to a press statement after a court-supervised auction was completed.
OneWeb had filed for bankruptcy in the US in late March after SoftBank decided to not inject more capital into the company. The Japanese conglomerate led by Masayoshi Son had previously invested about $2 billion in OneWeb.
As per the deal announced on Friday, Bharti Global and the British government will invest an equal amount in OneWeb. Bharti Global will also provide operational and commercial support, OneWeb said in a statement.
Bharti Global, through Mumbai-listed telecom operator Bharti Airtel Ltd, has around 425 million subscribers worldwide, mainly in India and Africa.
OneWeb, which had plans to develop a fleet of low earth orbit satellites to boost broadband services, said that Bharti Airtel will act as the testing ground for its products, services and applications.
Bharti will also contribute “significant contract value” to OneWeb through its presence across South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa and will be “a near-term anchor customer” for large-scale deployment of OneWeb’s services, the satellite company said.
The deal is subject to a US court approval and regulatory clearances, and is likely to close before the end of the year.